The JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem is ushering in a new era in indoor high school track and field in North Carolina.
The facility has scheduled indoor track meets throughout the winter, which will allow high school track athletes to compete more often. The facility has more than 10 indoor high school meets scheduled for the season, including an early-season meet Dec. 14.
“We are really excited that this facility has become available,” said Mark Dreibelbis, a N.C. High School Athletic Association assistant commissioner. “This will enable the sport to expand.”
For years the only indoor track facility in North Carolina was at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Dreibelbis said UNC was an outstanding host for the championships, but the one facility had limited availability for high school competitions.
Teams had difficulty finding venues for competition.
For many teams the season consisted of a couple of indoor meets, including the NCHSAA championship, a trip to an out-of-state facility, competitions held outdoors, plus some national meets for the elite.
UNC’s Eddie Smith Field House was not available in 2011 because of renovations on campus and there was no other facility available in the state. The NCHSAA held a winter track championship outdoors rather than hold an indoor track championship.
“Actually, the NCHSAA having to hold their championship outdoors was a factor in getting our facility built,” said Craig Longhurst, the facility director and a former East Wake High and Wake Forest University distance runner. “That demonstrated a great need.”
The JDL facility is larger and has more room for participants and spectators than the UNC facility, but another advantage of the new facility is the opportunity for indoor track athletes to compete in more regular-season meets.
Teams still will be allowed to hold meets outdoors using indoor distances and equipment, but there also will be more chances to compete indoors than ever before in North Carolina.
The new facility and a growth in indoor track participation were factors in the NCHSAA reclassifying indoor track this year so there will be a 1A/2A championship, a 3A championship and a 4A championship. The state finals will be Feb. 7-8.
Boys teams to watch
Knightdale: The sprinters led the Knights to the Class 4A championship in 2013. Football standout Marquavious Johnson won the 500-meter run and Kimani Hoffman won the triple jump. Jamie Brown was runner-up in the high jump. Besides Johnson, the Knights also return Marcel Johnson and Henry Kiedy from the winning 4x400 and 4x800 relays. Kiedy was third in the 500. Corey Aiken is expected to be strong in middle-distance races.
Cary: The Imps were second behind Knightdale in 4A competition, 65-54. Dean Abushouk, a 1,600-meter runner, is one of the few veterans.
Southeast Raleigh: The Bulldogs were third behind Knightdale and Cary in the 2013 championships, but, like Cary, graduated most of its the athletes who scored in the state meet. Jaquell Taylor was third in the triple jump
Broughton: The Caps have the strongest distance-running program in the state, which was demonstrated by its cross country dominance. Will Roberson was runner-up in the 3,200 indoors last year and leads a corps of runners that could dominant the distance runs.
Girls teams to watch
Wakefield: The Wolverines and Southeast Raleigh battled for the indoor title with the Wolverines’ winning 4x400 relay helping Wakefield take the title 80-72. Dejah Jones, Destiny Robinson and JeMay Ward return from that relay. Breanne Bygrave was runner-up in the 55 hurdles and Ward was fourth in the 500. Jones was fifth in the 1,000.
Southeast Raleigh: The Bulldogs return Katey Greer, Kaylie Lloyd and Jasmine Allen from the winning 4x800 relay. Lloyd was runner-up in the 1,000.
Cary: Layla White, the 500-meter champion, is the only area returning individual indoor champion.
Cardinal Gibbons: The Crusaders were a competitive fourth in the 1A/2A/3A championship in 2013. Distance runners Mary Grace Doggett, the 2012 3,200 indoor champ, and Sophie Ebihara are among the best distance runners in the state.
Broughton: Senior Megan Sullivan, an N.C. State recruit, is running indoors instead of playing basketball this season and should be a contender in the 1,600 and 3,200.